A few days from the end of the year, AFC Sudbury are just where they planned to be after overhauling the squad on a reduced budget.
On the eve of facing Ryman One North’s version of ‘the Galácticos’ AFC boss David Batch has hinted the gap between the rivals’ wages is much bigger than five points separating them in the table, despite 10th-placed Sudbury holding three games in hand.
But he believes AFC’s unbeaten run — currently seven games — can overcome the hurdles of a trio of top 10 sides; at Needham today (1pm), before home games against Maldon and Tiptree on Saturday (3pm) and Dereham Town on Wednesday (3pm).
Reflecting on his first turn of the year in charge, since arriving in the summer, he said: “Unless you come in and spend major money to get recognised players to have an immediate impact then things are not going to happen overnight.
“I knew our playing budget is less than last year.”
Batch, who has signed 21 new players already, added: “Even before we kicked a ball in a friendly in training you could tell we needed more strength — both physically and mentally.”
The Yellows’ manager pointed to the 2-2 draw at Soham Town Rangers, followed by the 1-1 draw at home to title-chasing Thurrock on Saturday as demonstrating the new resilience he has embedded in his squad.
AFC will face former manager Mark Morsley’s Needham side for the third time this season today, having drawn 0-0 in a fiery reverse fixture and lost 2-1 at Bloomfields in the FA Cup.
But Batch believes big-name players like Ian Westlake, Kemal Izzet and Jamie Guy will still have to earn the right to win any points.
“Football is not played on paper and it is what happens on the pitch,” he said. “It is a local derby and we are looking forward to it as much as they will be.
“We are both in similar positions and we are pro- bably happy to be there and they have probably not achieved as much as they thought.”
Full-back Ben Lewis is set to go straight back into the squad after his loan spell at Gorleston ran out yesterday, while Michael Shinn (knee) definitely misses out and will have to see a specialist in January.
Jamie Forshaw (knee) is said to be recovering well, though no return date has yet been pencilled in.